Today marks the 18th anniversary of Steve Jobs unveiling the original iPod at a small event on Apple’s Infinite Loop campus. While the iMac started Apple’s renaissance in 1998, it was the launch of the iPod in 2001 that truly set Apple on a path towards becoming the world’s most valuable company.
Jobs famously pitched the original iPod as offering “1,000 songs in your pocket.” The combination of its 5GB hard drive and 0.75-inch thickness was impressive at the time, with the device also featuring a two-inch screen, up to 10 hours of battery life, a FireWire port, and the first iteration of the iconic click wheel.
“With iPod, Apple has invented a whole new category of digital music player that lets you put your entire music collection in your pocket and listen to it wherever you go,” said Jobs in Apple’s press release from October 23, 2001. “With iPod, listening to music will never be the same again.”
The ubiquitous device forever changed the music industry. Along with the iPod came iTunes, a program that transformed the way music was sold, played and produced.
Record stores closed in droves, artists who created thematic albums were now focussed on selling singles and the small handheld object became a status symbol in which people could now share and showcase their individual music tastes. Everyone could carry their entire music library in their pockets. The art of conversation with nearby people stopped as white earbuds closed out the world around us and we looked down instead of around.
Watch the crude introductory video below and wonder at how far Apple has come from their vast product line, countless innovations, frequency of product releases, the annual cost to consumers to how these sleek gadgets are now introduced P.T. Barnum style at special events.